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2013-10-28 02:53:16
2013-10-28 02:53:16

Although other elements do form a variety of molecular structures, carbon has a unique tendency to form a very wide variety of long molecular chains and rings that form the basis for organic compounds (with hydrogen and oxygen) that at some level of complexity begin to self-replicate.

It has been speculated that some element other than carbon could be used as a basis for the kind of complex molecules that are thought to be required by life. Silicon in particular is sometimes suggested. since it (like carbon) is capable of forming up to four covalent bonds per atom.

However, it's not energetically favorable for silicon to bond to another silicon instead of oxygen, meaning complex molecules like you get with carbon ... and which are probably necessary for life... are not likely.

For a really full treatment of the subject, I recommend the Isaac Asimov essay "The One and Only" which appears in his essay collection The Tragedy of the Moon.

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